Highlights from a Successful Congress in Kigali
Last week saw the International Water Association reach a new landmark in the shape of its most successful Water Development Congress & Exhibition to date.
Held on 10-14 December 2023 at Rwanda’s iconic Kigali Convention Centre, it was a resounding success, gathering almost 3000 water and development professionals, organisations, visitors, and companies, primarily from low- and middle-income countries.
The Congress set a benchmark for IWA’s growing presence and support for the sector in Africa. As IWA President Tom Mollenkopf noted in the closing ceremony: “Africa – comprised of 54 countries and home to over 1.2 billion people – is a critical part of who IWA is and where its future lies. This Congress has been another critical step along the path of meaningful and multi-dimensional engagement, of sharing and learning, of genuine dialogue.”
The week’s theme was ‘Water, sanitation, and Climate Resilience – keys to a water-wise future’. This was evident across the extensive programme, from keynotes and technical sessions through to the 40+ workshops and the special programme features.
G Mathi Vathanan, Principal Secretary from the Government of Odisha in India, set the tone as keynote speaker in the Opening Ceremony, sharing insights into how his state transitioned its intermittent water systems to 24/7. Key messages were that urban poor should be the priority in this transition and that success came from active involvement of women water teams (Jal Sathis).
Sanitation was also high on the agenda, especially at the High-Level Summit on Sanitation, which convened an influential audience focused on policy. Climate-related highlights included the second edition of IWA’s Climate Smart Utilities recognition programme.
The success of the event was founded on support from local, regional and global partners, especially our hosts – the Government of Rwanda and utility WASAC Group. This support was evident in the Opening Ceremony, with contributions from Honourable Dr Jimmy Gasore, Minister of Infrastructure, Professor Omar Munyaneza, WASAC Group CEO, Dr Silver Mugisha, President of the African Water and Sanitation Association (AfWASA), and a video message from Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Secretary of UN-Habitat.
The week included announcement of the winners of the prestigious Water and Development Awards 2023: Dr Veena Srinivasan for Research, and Dr Doulaye Kone for Practice.
With total congress participation of around 3000, delegates came from 85 countries, and there were well over 100 exhibitors. The event provided an outstanding platform focusing on low- and middle-income countries. IWA Executive Director Kala Vairavamoorthy adds: “The IWA team put on a fantastic event, and we are grateful to our partners for their support.” The staff at IWA thank all the participants for making this memorable event the resounding success it was.